Barra arrive with a big bang
  |  First Published: March 2013

Yahoo, the barra season certainly arrived with a huge bang, and catches of good sized barra have continued up to the time of putting this article together.

After the good rain late December, then ex-TC Oswald, the creeks have been swollen with fresh run off, and that has stirred up the prawns and the barra have followed suit, with all the usual creeks firing well. In fact many of my mates have been concentrating on the prawns using the old make hay while the sun shines theory and leaving the barra alone for the first few weeks of the season.

Oswald may not have been much of a cyclone but he sure did make his mark right down the Queensland coast, and while leaving much destruction and heartache behind, the huge flooding and flushing out of river systems will have long term benefits for the fish populations. Unfortunately my planned early assault on the barra after opening has had to be postponed due to work commitments, but I sure have the barra itch and it will get scratched shortly!

While the prawns are running hot, the better barra have been snared with live mullet baits rather than prawns. One of the best I know of was an 113cm beauty caught by John Groves of Springsure, which was one of over 25 barra he caught in Reliance Creek. Most of the fish were released and John tells me most of them were in the 60-80cm size range, the ideal salty to keep for the table. He was happy to return home with some lovely fresh fillets in the freezer.

Over the next month or so the saltwater barra will be on most anglers must do list and judging by the way the season started, most anglers won’t be disappointed. While live baiting has seen mullet as the big fish bait, the lure anglers have been scoring plenty of barra on prawn imitations, and some of them are really lifelike. The reliable Prawn Star has been joined by some new brands like the Citec and Zerek range, both of which are proving particularly successful, and sell out very quickly at the tackle shops.

The barra fishing will be dependant on the weather conditions, and as March is normally our wettest month of the year, heavy and continuous monsoon rains can shut down the barra quick time. The saving grace when this happens can be the local dams, although with big inflows of cold run off water, they can shut down as well. Of course the barra are still there, but getting them to respond to lures or baits is a real challenge, and many a lure or bait set for barra turns up forktail catfish at this time of the year, particularly in dirty water.

If there are creek rises and lots of fresh water about, try fishing on the bigger tides as there is more movement of salt water into the creeks and while the surface water may be fresh or brackish, there is usually a good layer of saltwater under the surface. This is the time to be looking for barra in little back eddies or small creeks out of the main tide run. Lures, flies or baits placed in and around these spots can turn up some mega barra. For lures, or flies, use noisy offerings with rattles fitted or vibration lures like Threadybusters or Transams, and for the bait fishermen, I recommend several live prawns on a large 7/0 or 8/0 hook so that they kick about and make plenty of racket.

If the barra shut down, due to dirty fresh water around, there is a good option for those anglers willing to rough it a bit. Golden trevally and snub nose dart (permit or oyster crackers as they are known locally) seem to enjoy these conditions and can be caught around the mouth of the Pioneer River, and several other creeks in the area. They also frequent the harbour rockwalls and can be caught on the run in tide particularly on the northern breakwall. It almost seems that the rougher the conditions are the better they like it.

Live baits are the traditional best bet and small fish, prawns or a bunch of yabbies can all meet with success. Fly fishers will struggle with the conditions and wind, but the lure angler should meet with some success with prawn imitations or other soft plastics, fished slow and almost on the bottom. The fish appear to be chasing either yabbies or even perhaps looking for the small pippies stirred up by the rough weather, so keeping your lure or bait close to the bottom is a logical approach.

Fish of 8-10kg are regularly caught around the harbour, but smaller ones around 4kg seem to be the most common. Even at this size, they are good sportfish and are capable of long sustained fights, particularly on lighter gear. Both species are also pretty good on the plate and yield a good sized fillet, which, with blood lines removed, barbecue up very nicely thank you.

Provided there is not too much dirty fresh water around, the bread and butter species like whiting, flathead, bream and grunter will be worth targeting along the beaches and in the creeks. All these species though prefer cleaner water, so conditions will dictate whether they are worth targeting or not.

In the freshwater, apart from the dams, the sooties will be worth seeking out in the river and small creeks. Sooties are used to floods and fast moving water so are not particularly fazed by the weather, and can be caught in very dirty water. Like the barra in the salt though, pick your spot carefully, and any small backwater or eddy out of the main current is worth a cast or two as the sooties will hole up here to conserve energy. Again noisy lures and spinnerbaits will be most successful during these type of conditions.

The dams will be very dependant on the amount of run off flowing into them, and while barra will congregate at a run in spot, the colder water usually has them moving away within a matter of hours. Check out areas of warmer water in the usual habitats of weed beds, lilies or timber and although the fishing is likely to be tough, persistence will pay off when that big barra smashes your lure.

Mackay, like anywhere else has fishing that is weather controlled, but as always we are fortunate to have so many options available to us even in the most adverse conditions. See you at the ramp.

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